One summer I thought it would be fun to visit all 51 MORE libraries over summer vacation. While we only visited 4, this is still a worthy goal and one I’ll keep on the bucket list.
My family and I are so very fortunate to live in Western Wisconsin and have easily access to the Indianhead Federated Library System, a consortium of 51 libraries. The closest one is an easy walk from our home and the farthest is about a 90 minute drive. We can search for and request over a million items AND get them delivered to the library of our choice– really!
I’m not just taking books here, folks! Remember your CD of favorite 80s music that got lost in a move? Looking for the original Broadway recording of your wife’s favorite musical and can’t find it on Netflicks? Your kids got a fascination with the human body? Or dinosaurs? Want to be an inventor? Want to make cards or scrapbook but don’t want to invests in stamps or fancy paper punches? Thinking about learning how to play a ukulele? There’s kit for that!
Librarians have built kits focused on one topic; each kit has a variety of books, activities, and sometimes even a movie all in one sturdy tote. They have done the work for you — all you need to do is check it out. Some of these kits even have Makey Makey boards!
Libraries are the great equalizer, putting pricey resources in the hands of anyone with a library card.
Believe it or not, you do NOT need to buy every Wii, Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo DS your kids beg for because you can borrow those from a library, too. Audio book in a variety of formats are also available. Are you thinking of buying a baby carrier and want to try some out? The Rice Lake Public Library has several for you to test drive.
Social justice important to you? Many libraries have a Food for Fines month. During designated times, members can bring in non-perishable food items in exchange for $1 or $2 off their library fines. Please make sure food is not expired. Fines are forgiven & hungry people in your community get food — that’s what I call a win-win.
And those librarians? Those folks get their very own page. In the mean time, what do you value about your library? Do you have a favorite? What do YOU love about your library?
So I lied when I said I would start with the more obscure books, assuming that most teachers and parents are familiar with the big names. Then I remember how The Birchbark House took Read Aloud to a whole new level one year and I decided to dedicate a page to Louise Erdich.
I remember reading Caddie Woodlawn as a kid and loving it. Who wouldn’t love Caddie as she found trees to climb taller than the ones her brothers climbed and wasn’t afraid to pick up snakes or cross creeks? I also remember looking for books to read to my class, revisiting Caddie Woodlawn and deciding NOT to read it because of how Native Americans are portrayed. I found what I was after when I picked up The Birchbark House. Little wonder it was a National Book Award finalist in 1999. Mostly I’m surprised it didn’t win.
This is one of those treasures that can be read and re-read. Characters become friends you’d want to have in real life. Every family, no matter the ethnicity, needs a Nokomis, a Deydey and a Yellow Kettle. Real tears were shed in my class the day Neewo lost his battle with smallpox. Nearly every child can relate to the challenges Omakayas faces with her siblings and the chores she is required to do.
As mentioned in an earlier post, students in my class typically do some handwork while listening to me read a chapter or two. Spontaneously, while listening to one of Nokomis’ stories, students put down their colored pencils and came to sit at my feet, completely enraptured. One child, a newer reader, even stood silently at my side, following along over my shoulder. Almost as if they wanted to be closer to the story. This has not happened since or with any other book. Erdich truly spins magic into each page.
The Great Whale of Kansas by Richard Jennings 160 pages
An 11 year old boy digs in his backyard (in Kansas, of course!) and unearths an entire whale skeleton. Amazingly, Kansas was at one time, a VERY long time ago, underwater. The main character is unnamed through the entire story and is mentored by a Native American book store owner and his middle school science teacher. There is a unique ending and listeners/readers get to contemplate who and what went before current inhabitants. Though this is not based on fact and it is fairly improbable, I decided to classify it here. Does it belong in fantasy instead? I suppose that’s open for discussion.
Jumping off points: Landscape architecture, archaeology, Native American rites & rituals, and allegories.